Omicron Variant Could Be Potent for Pharma Stocks, ETFs | ETF Trends

According to reports out Wednesday, the first U.S case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was discovered in California.

More research is needed on the Omicron strain, but there’s already ample chatter that it could require booster shots or perhaps even its own vaccine, signaling a variety of investment implications. Whether it’s boosters or a new vaccine, pharmaceutical equities and exchange traded funds, such as the VanEck Vectors Pharmaceutical ETF (PPH), are poised to benefit.

Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech (BNTX), and Moderna (MRNA) are among the coronavirus vaccine leaders, and each has leverage to boosters.

“Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have disclosed some information on strategies and timelines until a new vaccine could be developed, and we estimate that a new vaccine could be available targeting the omicron variant in six months, if necessary,” says Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen.

PPH, which follows the MVIS US Listed Pharmaceutical 25 Index, holds 25 stocks. The VanEck ETF allocates 6.12% of its weight to Pfizer, making that stock the fund’s largest holding. Predictably, much of the coronavirus-related thesis for pharmaceuticals stocks, including PPH components, revolves around how rapidly these companies can bring product to market.

“Established manufacturing capacity–which is poised to reach 4 billion doses annually at Pfizer/BioNTech and perhaps 3 billion annually at Moderna (depending on dosage)–could be easily switched to a new variant vaccine, as raw materials and manufacturing processes remain the same,” adds Andersen.

The third shot thesis is arguably baked into many vaccine stocks at this point, but that actually highlights the advantages of Pfizer’s broad portfolio, a trait that some of the smaller vaccine companies lack.

“While Pfizer’s broad biopharma portfolio continues to support a wide moat, we think Moderna and BioNTech are still in the process of building sustainable competitive advantages, given the uncertainty around the future spread of COVID, the applicability of mRNA technology to other vaccines and treatments, and defense against similar or improved competing technologies,” according to Andersen.

Other PPH holdings with coronavirus leverage that also sport broad pipelines include AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), and Merck (NYSE:MRK). That trio combines for about 15% of the VanEck ETF’s roster. PPH is higher by 7.46% year-to-date.

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The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.